How healthcare providers can set strong virtual care goals.
Health systems must know how to measure success before launching a telemedicine program. Image cropped and resized. Licensed from vectorfusionart - stock.adobe.com.
The adoption of digital health is a necessity in today’s healthcare environment. Providers want to deliver high-quality care, patients want greater access and convenience and everyone wants to cut the ever-rising costs. As a testament to the advantages of digital care, research suggests that healthcare delivery organizations are invested heavily in telehealth and that satisfaction scores for video-enabled telehealth solutions have hit 83 percent for virtual visits, 84 percent for acute care management and 90 percent for chronic health support.
For patients, the benefits are easy to see. Being monitored from home versus having to go to a hospital or stay at a rehabilitation facility is more convenient, and being able to access doctors and specialists from rural areas at the click of a button saves time and money versus traveling to an appointment.
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On the provider side, digital health solutions can address some of the toughest pain points, including staffing shortages, patient satisfaction, patient wait times and the number of hospital and emergency room readmissions.
With all these benefits for both the patient and provider, it is a no-brainer that 2018 is the year that telemedicine becomes medicine. However, in order to ensure the success of a virtual care program, there must be a system in place to measure the program’s progress.
Once a healthcare organization decides to implement a digital health program, the first step is to set realistic goals that align with the organization’s overall business strategy. Creating specific goals and putting them in place before signing a contract with a telehealth technology provider ensures that the hospital or health system will get the right tools it needs to achieve success.
As soon as these goals are defined, look for a digital care solution that can be easily integrated into the organization’s existing clinical workflow. This is extremely important because having providers and patients actually use the technology is the only way to drive success. Having interoperable technology that can launch a video consultation without having to open another application is one way to encourage adoption.
It is also important to keep in mind that no two telehealth programs are the same. Just like a rural hospital in Indiana would have a different strategy than a hospital in New York City, the goals will be different for every organization, depending on size, patient population, location and services provided.
Another important factor in ensuring the success of a digital health program is taking a holistic view of the program. Since there are many ways to calculate the success of a virtual appointment, create metrics around the following areas:
Luckily, most of this information can be compiled from the telehealth platform after each visit via follow-up surveys completed by both the clinician and the patient. Collecting and tracking this data against year-to-year goals allows healthcare organizations to adjust their virtual health program based on accurate data. With these metrics in mind, healthcare organizations can maintain a consistent reporting process to measure the success of the program on a regular basis.
As with any growing enterprise, a healthcare organization’s strategic goals may change, leading to a shift in the goals of the virtual care program. Organizations need to anticipate this change and build flexibility into their program, so it can evolve with the larger organization. While setting realistic goals is the first step to measuring the success of the program, it is important to also revisit the goals each year to make any necessary changes.
As stated above, the success of any virtual care program can only be measured if the technology is actually being used by patients and providers. To ensure adoption, healthcare organizations need to communicate both internally and externally, to patients and providers, making sure they understand the full capabilities and goals of the telehealth solution. Providers would need to understand, for example, that the goal is to have at least 50 percent of post-op appointments per year held via video. On the patient side, organizations should confirm that all patients know about the telehealth platform and can sign on in time for their appointment.
Implementing new digital health technology in an organization’s workflow can be a daunting task, and having to guarantee the success of the program can be even more nerve-wracking. However, putting strategies in place prior to implementation can ensure that the program is successful in terms of both patient satisfaction and as a profit driver for the organization.
Brian Young is director of healthcare solutions marketing at Vidyo.
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